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 | Bishop Gregory Parkes

Sunday, August 29th Gospel Reflection

“So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?’” – Mark 7:5

I remember attending a workshop for pastors and bishops on leadership. One of my key takeaways from the conference was to make an effort to catch people doing something right. As bishop, you can imagine that I receive many letters and emails about our parishes, priests and deacons. Some express concerns or bad experiences that they have had. Others want to let me know how much their faith has grown because of their involvement at a particular parish. Could you imagine if I only called or contacted the priest or pastor when I received a complaint, but never when I heard something positive? I’ve made it a practice to do both – to call when something needs to be addressed, and to say thank you when praise is deserved. Do you do the same, or are you always looking to catch someone doing something wrong?

Mark’s Gospel this weekend deals with the Pharisees who are judging Jesus’ followers based on the fact that they don’t follow the traditional ritualistic practices of the elders with respect to purification and cleanliness. The Pharisees are more concerned with the external, but over time, the ritual had lost its meaning and despite being outwardly clean, their hearts were not so clean. Jesus observes that they do one thing that is righteous but then do something else that is sinful. They have the outward appearance of cleanliness and righteousness, but inwardly, the disposition of their hearts is not pure.   

This is a lesson for all of us. Many attend Mass and go through the rituals of blessings, gestures and pious appearances. But do we even know the meaning behind them or why we do them? Many receive the Holy Eucharist and yet have an unclean heart as they have not been to the Sacrament of Reconciliation in years. We are called to approach the altar, and Jesus in the Eucharist, with reverence and awe, and not in a state of sin or out of obligation. Not only should our outward appearance be respectful when approaching the Lord’s table, but more importantly, our heart and soul should be clean and humble.

Most Reverend Gregory L. Parkes is the fifth Bishop of St. Petersburg. To follow Bishop Parkes on social media and to listen to his podcasts, visit